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March 28, 2008
Can't keep Jack Mackenroth down

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Jack Mackenroth is in the house, well, city. Our city, to be exact.

The former Season 4 "Project Runway" contestant (pictured) arrived in Sactown late Thursday night, but he quickly got on West Coast time. Just in time to talk this morning about his appearance at tonight's "Imagine" fashion show at the Crest Theatre, as well as about his future in the garment biz.

For those of you who got stuck in hibernation over the winter, Jack left "Project Runway" after the season's episode five for medical reasons. But, ever the fan, he kept watching to the end, cheering on one of his best friends on the show, eventual winner Christian Sirano.

And, yes, Jack thinks Christian's talent is "fierce!"

"I was a huge fan of the show since its inception," Jack says. "It was bittersweet for me to leave because I was close to so many people."

Jack, 38, grew up in Seattle, but he graduated from UC Berkeley.

"Oddly enough, I was in pre-med for two years," he says. "I was already making my own clothes, but I was sort of programmed to be in the sciences. My dad is a doctor, my mom's a nurse.

"But I knew being a doctor wasn't something I wanted to do the rest of my life."

Jack graduated from Cal as an art major, moved to New York and attended the Parsons the New School for Design. You know, the one that "Project Runway" mentor Tim Gunn was so instrumental in building up.

"I didn't have Tim as a teacher while I was there," Jack says. "But when I auditioned last year for 'Project Runway,' I tracked down the acceptance letter I got in 1991 (from Parsons), and his signature was on it."

Currently, Jack is living in New York in what he calls a "strange limbo." Interestingly, he's in negotiations to appear on Season 5 of "PR" because his run was cut so short. Auditions are about to get under way for the next show, with shooting set for June and July.

"There are some legal things to be worked out, but I would love to go back on the show," Jack says.

Jack says he already knows he would do things differently if he gets another chance.

"I might be more competitive," he says. "I've talked with some of the show's producers who fear I might have an edge because I already was on. But I think actually there's some disadvantage because I know I'll have to be more inventive."

Jack is actually still on the fence about whether to do the show again. As I've blogged about other reality TV contestants, "Project Runway" (like "American Idol" and "Top Chef") are exhausting shows for the competitors.

"I think what's great is that the show is giving the finalists more than a couple of months to design a 13-piece collection," Jack says. "My goal would be to not get stuck in a design mold."

As for winner Christian, Jack says the young designer is not as "catty" as the editing reflected on the show. Right now, Jack says, Christian has been doing the celebrity thing: talk shows, appearing on "Make Me a Supermodel" (another Bravo show), etc. (A sure sign that Christian has made it onto the pop-culture radar, he was even "featured" on a recent "Saturday Night Live" skit.)

"Did you see that? It was hilarious," Jack says. "Christian got to meet Amy Poehler, who played him in the skit. He calls me and says, 'Jack, she looks exactly like me. She even has my body movements down!'

"I'm so excited for him and the other finalists because I think they produced the best (collections) of any prior season."

Jack his a reality TV junkie. Not so much the "Big Brother" voyeur/catfight thing ("I can go to a bar and watch that happen"). But he loves "Idol" and "Top Chef." ("Shows where talent is involved, where interesting people are actually doing something.")

For tonight's show at the Crest, which is put on by Sacramento's International Academy of Design & Technology, Jack will be the keynote speaker. His plan? A little bio info, some sound bites about the importance of education in fashion, and how he once had hair as crazy as buddy Christian's.

"There will be a slide show. Look for picture No. 3, where I had a hairdo that would rival Christian's," he says. "I'll also talk about my experience on 'Project Runway.' It should be entertaining."

Indeed. And check back here at 21Q Saturday for early impressions of tonight's show, plus our own slide show early next week.


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